Yesterday, we kicked off our summer entertaining season with a backyard barbecue to celebrate both Father’s Day and Ben’s eighth grade graduation. My menu consisted of yogurt-marinated grilled chicken with assorted aiolis, watermelon and feta salad, orzo and vegetable salad, warm potato salad, classic Caesar salad, and a few seasonal desserts, including an icebox cake and cherry slab pie. And sangria, of course.
It was a mostly make-ahead meal, with elements that pleased everyone in attendance, including the little kids who were delighted with the basket of dinner rolls set out on the buffet table. Eating isn't really their forte, and when my small nieces and nephews are here they’ve never very interested in the meal (except the breads and butter and desserts) because they’re usually too busy amusing themselves with the games and activities we set-up.
If you recall from last summer, rule #5 in my list of secrets to simple summer entertaining states the importance of planning something fun for this kids, and this year we broke out backyard Jenga for a little family-friendly competition. My pregnant sister and I kicked things off with a rousing game, showing the kids how to strategically remove the pieces of wood from within the stacked pile and return them to the top of the tower without causing the structure to collapse. They were enthralled and jumped in to play their own game (or three) when we were finished.
While we certainly aren’t the first family to make this game for our backyard, we have yet to meet anyone else with a set they’ve built for themselves. If you’re interested in having this at your own home or cottage, here’s how to make it:
- 7 pieces of wood – 2 x 4 x 8
- Mitre saw
- Power sander
Cut pieces of wood into 10.5-inch lengths (we ended up with 54 pieces). Using a hand-held electric sander (this is a great job for the older kids - my boys worked on ours), sand the individual pieces all over to make them smooth and safe for hands – especially if you’ll be playing this with small children.
To play, stack the blocks in rows of three placed next to each other along their long sides, at a right angle to the previous level. Once the tower is built, the person who stacked it plays first. On each turn, remove one block from any level of the tower (except the one directly below an incomplete top level) and place it on the topmost level in order to complete it.
The game ends when the tower falls. The loser is the person who made it collapse (or whose turn it was when the towel fell). Traditional Jenga rules state that players may only use on hand a time. This is a challenge with the bigger blocks of wood, but not impossible. Feel free to decide how to deal with that rule on your own, however just state it before the game begins so all players are aware of what is acceptable when playing.